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Meade DSI Pro II vs. Atik - 16ic

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#1 Sky-Above

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 04:17 PM

Shopping for a camera. These 2 camera's appear to have similar prices and wondered if anyone here has hands on experience with both? I see several posts and images from the DSI but not much from the Atik camera.

Looks like the chips in each are different but I don't know enough to tell which is the better one. The atik 16ic has the Sony ICX424AL chip while the DSI has the Sony ICX429ALL. Pixel size is different but don't know if it's enough to make a difference. Resolution seems a little higher on the DSI while the Atik has cooling built-in.

Anybody have any thoughts on these 2 cameras? While the type of scope I will be using matter in making my decision? :question:

#2 Ben Ritchie

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Posted 23 May 2007 - 02:39 AM

I've had two CCDs with the monochrome ICX424, an upgraded HX516 and the Lumenera SKYnyx 2-0M. From what I remember the HX516 was slightly less sensitive than the mono DSI Pro so the Pro II should have it well beaten on that front. Not quite sure how single shot colour changes that, if at all. However the noise level of the ICX424 is low and cooling will improve that further. I would expect that you should be able to use the Atik without darks, I almost never used them with the HX516 or SXV-H9C.

One more possible issue is power, it's convenient to run a CCD with just a USB cable if possible - don't know if you can do that with the DSI or not, but i'd expect the cooled camera to need power?

If you want the safe bet, buy the DSI Pro II, that's well regarded and I don't think you would regret the choice. I'd go for the cooled camera though, i'd prefer the lower noise.

As for pixel size, as a beginner you want to aim for about 2.5 arc seconds/pixel or so, so if you have a long focal length 'scope then bigger pixels are better. However, with these two I don't think there's enough of a difference in pixel size to matter.

#3 jgraham

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Posted 23 May 2007 - 08:14 AM

Yep, the DSI cameras use only one USB cable. The camera does pull a fair amount of power so you need to use the 6' cable supplied with the camera which uses slightly larger conductors than a standard USB cable. To go longer you can use a powered repeater cable or a powered USB hub. In my setup I'm running two cameras (a DSI and DSI Pro) on a telescope about 20 feet from my house using a powered USB hub out at the telescope.

#4 Sky-Above

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Posted 23 May 2007 - 11:42 AM

Thanks guys for the reply. Good to know about the power / USB cables. Not sure it's an issue out of the gate for me but I'm sure I will have to deal with it at some point.

I had sent an email to one of the online retailers that carries these cameras and got a reply that the Atik was the better choice. He did not provide any data to back his statement up nor did he say anything bad about the DSI, just said the Atik was superior on all levels. Oh he did say the software with the DSI was "quirky". All that is fine but I would like to find some data to support his statements.

While I know I would most likely be very happy with the DSI, would I "outgrow" the DSI quicker than the Atik?

#5 Ben Ritchie

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Posted 23 May 2007 - 12:29 PM

It's not clear to me why the Atik is "superior on all levels" - for example it would appear to me that the H-alpha response of the DSI Pro II is better than the Atik, although that's just going on the normalized response curves rather than absolute efficiency (which I don't know). Active cooling is worthwhile though, especially if you're somewhere warm, which is why i'd probably pick the Atik.

Another option if you have the money is the Atik ATK-16 - http://www.perseu.pt...oduct_atk16.php which has the same CCD as the DSI Pro II but is cooled. Looks very good to me.

As for the software, I never liked the DSI software and much prefer something like AstroArt. But I think it's personal preference, I don't think the DSI software is that strange.

But I wouldn't worry too much, they both look good and the DSI Pro II results speak for themselves.

#6 lawrie

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Posted 23 May 2007 - 12:52 PM

If I remember right, The chips in this level of Atik is the same as the DSI's one is a one shot color and the other is Mono. The only real difference is the cooling on the Atik where the DSI takes darks and subtracts them.
The software for the DSI is made for a novice, I wouldn't say it is quirky but it could use a upgrade. Then again if you don't like it you can use K3CCDtools or something like that (cheaper than AstroArt, Maxim and the such)
Look around here ( cloudynights) and see the work people are producing with the DSI Pro II there is some pretty good stuff IMHO.
The Atik imagers gets real good if you pick the Sony 285 chip. That is a nice imager, again IMHO.

#7 Sky-Above

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Posted 23 May 2007 - 02:09 PM

Thanks guys. I just read the datasheet on the chips and see that chip is smaller in the Atik vs. the DSI. I would also agree that I have seen many awesome pictures (in my opinion) from the DSI Pro II camera. I don't doubt the Atik is a good camera but but the time you get the filter wheel and filters, it turns out to be hundreds more than the DSI. From what I have gathered so far it's not worth that extra couple hundred bucks is it?

I do live in a warm climate (Southern California) but didn't I see somwhere that you can add a fan to the DSI ?

#8 jgraham

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Posted 23 May 2007 - 04:33 PM

Envisage does so many different things I think some find it a little overwhelming. It seems they tried to make it easy to use for those just starting plus all of the functionality you want as you get more advanced. I don't think you'd be out-growing the DSI Pro (or Pro II) any time soon unless you're trying to do very advanced stuff. I've had my Pro for a couple of years and there's still plenty of room to grow.

I have the Meade cooling fan on mine and I find it useful when the ambient air temperature gets up in the 75-85 F range, above that the air around here is usually too hazy to image anyway. With the DSI Pro thermal noise starts to become a problem when the ambient air temperature gets up around 80F, the fan buys you about 10F, or up to around 90F. The Pro II is supposed to run quieter than the Pro which may make it better suited to warm weather imaging. The Pro II also has a built-in temperature sensor to automatically select the right dark frame once you've built up a library of darks.

There are undoubtedly better cameras available, but the DSI series is a good value.

#9 lawrie

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Posted 23 May 2007 - 11:42 PM

I agree with John.

#10 Ben Ritchie

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Posted 24 May 2007 - 12:59 AM

I agree with everything John says too.

Have you read Wodaski's "the New CCD Astronomy"? That contains a lot of good information about how to pick a CCD, which might help. Excellent book.

#11 Sky-Above

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Posted 24 May 2007 - 11:58 AM

Quick question for those of you with the DSI. How does it do on planets? I realize planets are more difficult to shoot but curious if anyone has been successful imaging planets with this camera?

#12 Ben Ritchie

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Posted 24 May 2007 - 12:49 PM

I tried Mars in 2005 with a DSI and it wasn't very good - a webcam is much better suited to planetary imaging and I'd guess a used NexImage or similar would be $50-$60 or so, money well spent. The ability to stack lots of frames makes life much easier.

#13 jgraham

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Posted 24 May 2007 - 12:54 PM

You can image planets with the DSI, but that's not what it's best at. The DSI Pro does a much better job, but you need to de-interlace the source images to get the best results.

#14 Ben Ritchie

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 12:13 PM

I just picked up a monochrome -16ic for use as a guide camera, but while I'm making my mind up about a main CCD I figured i'd try it out at imaging. So far it's (almost) only been used for PEMPro, but I took one 30-second exposure of M13. No stacking, no darks, no noise reduction - this is almost straight out of the CCD. Looks promising...

Attached Thumbnails

  • 1643074-M13_30s.jpg


#15 comets4tom

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 11:26 AM

Ben

Which scope did you image this through?
I have been looking at the 16IC also as I would like a monchrome imager that has active cooling.

Tom H.

#16 Ben Ritchie

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 11:36 AM

That was through the AP130, working at 1.47"/pixel. It's a little blurry because I was unguided, next time I get some clear sky i'll shoot an hour of luminance plus some colour to see what it can do. Impressed with it so far though, very easy to use.

#17 Ben Ritchie

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 12:04 PM

One thing to bear in mind is the attached, which is my best effort at figuring out the absolute QE of the ICX424-based ATIK against the more red-sensitive DSI Pro/Pro-II. Figures are based on the relative QE given on the Sony data sheets and the absolute QE obtained from searching around the web. In particular i've assumed a peak QE for the pro-II of 65% (i've seen the ICX429 peak QE given as both 65% and 70%) so this is a 'best case' difference from the point of view of the ATIK.

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  • 1645069-qe.JPG


#18 Miguel Lopes

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 04:37 PM

Besides CCD QE, it seems the ATIK has very low electronic noise, which means a good circuit board layout, can you confirm?

#19 Ben Ritchie

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 11:32 PM

Miguel - I'm trying to measure that at the moment. I should have some numbers in a few days.

edit: from the point of simple dark frames, the Atik appears to have much lower background noise and many fewer hot pixels than the DSI - that's no surprise as it's cooled. Controlling the DSI's noise with dark frames should not be a problem (some of the SBIGs are very noisy, but people still take excellent images with them). However it would seem that the DSI needs careful use of dark frames to get the best performance (and, as it is uncooled, these would need to be retaken every night - ideally a stack of dark frames would be used, and, for long subs, this takes time). On the other hand the ATIK may well be usable without darks, which is a big convenience if nothing else.

#20 ken svp120

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 08:44 AM

I have some JPEG dark frames I recently took with the Pro II Monochrome - I'll see if I can get them posted...

#21 ken svp120

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 09:28 AM

Here they are at 20C/70F, 30sec, 60sec, 2min, and 5min

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

#22 Ben Ritchie

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 11:19 AM

Hi Ken - what stretching did you do on those. I can post matching Atik darks. However, I'm starting to think that darks may not be a great thing to look at - the cooled Atik will obviously look better than the uncooled DSI, but dark frames can deal with the DSI noise just fine.

In practice I guess what matters is the SNR when imaging, but I don't know how to assess that.

#23 CCD-Labs

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 12:00 PM

.jpg darks are not usable to look at dark current performance comparisons. They can be processed by software (like envisage) with out you even knowing it. RAW FITS is the only thing really worth looking at.

William

#24 Ben Ritchie

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 12:25 PM

The values I have from 5-minute darks at 20 degrees C are
          ATIK          DSI
min        175            0
max      20050        63796
average    272          849
std dev.  50.2          945

but I don't think that's surprising, a 20 degree centigrade dark is about a worst-case scenario for a DSI (it would be rare to use it at a higher temperature) and of course the cooled ATIK will have lower noise. DSI owners will need to use darks, but figuring out that isn't exactly rocket science from me either :)

What I can't figure out is to what extent the lower noise of the ATIK compensates for the lower red sensitivity. I think i've hit the limits of what I know :help:

#25 ken svp120

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Posted 07 June 2007 - 12:34 PM

There was absolutely no processing done on these...I opened the FTS files and saved as JPEG's. Ben, you should be able to open the FTS files I sent you just as they came off the chip...if you do so....how do they compare to these JPEG's?


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